Recently I was invited to go bowling with a group of friends on Friday night. It’s bowling with music, drinks, and neon-lit lanes; sounds like a good time, right? Not if your average score trails that of a par golfer. I figured we’d be on teams, so my teammates could make up for my lack of skill, poor bastards. I even asked if I could earn points for good sportsmanship, but apparently there’s no way to plug that into the leader board. When we were all told there would be no teams, that we were each on our own, I cringed a bit, tried to hide my fear through a big gulp of brew, and decided I was going to do the best that I could.
But therein lies the issue…”The best that I could…” should always be followed by “with the current knowledge and skills you have.” If you’ve always been underwhelming at, well, anything, and continue to do the same thing every time, how are you supposed to improve?
I struggled through picking the right ball, balancing my steps with releasing the ball into the lane, and cringing in disappointment with the crash of the ball into the gutter…again. I don’t know if my friends were clapping at my effort when I turned around, or applauding in relief I wasn’t on their team. After a round of what could be classified as sketch comedy bowling, I had had it. I was tired of looking inept (even explaining that I have a wicked serve in table tennis, how can bowling beguile me?). I was tired of looking uncoordinated, tired of looking like the weak one in the group.
Enough is Enough
My competitive nature kicked in and I approached one of the members in our group who I didn’t really know, but obviously was a skilled player. “Jeff!”, I pleaded, “break it down for me. Give me a crash course in bowling. What am I doing wrong?!” He smiled and agreed to watch me bowl the next couple times and give me pointers. In usual form, I took the ball I thought was the right weight, made what I thought was the proper approach, and chucked the ball nearly into the next lane. The scoreboard mocked my effort.
He took me aside and mentioned a few quick tips. You’re pointing your thumb over, your wrist is twisted, so the balls going to follow that line. Address where you want it to go and follow through with a straight arm. I picked up the ball, kept my arm straight, and released. Crash, clunk, clonk…5 pins down; improvement! So maybe I’m not the most un-athletic person alive, perhaps I’m just ignorant to what works.
Getting the Help You Need
Seeing my conundrum, another skilled player offered some side-line advice. Don’t twist your body, the ball follows that line. Keep your arm on a hinge and start with your toes here, not there. And don’t be in such a rush, take your time. Take a deep breath and just release it. What ball are you using? No way! That’s too light, you’re chucking it with too much force. Try this one to ease your curve.
The arrows on the scoreboard dropped down to my name, seeming to point and laugh. I searched for the different ball, took a breath, approached with ease, and released in a straight line. In a gargle of noise, the pins exploded and fell, every, single one of them. I turned to an equally rich explosion of applause and high-fives. I had done it, I had gotten better. My “teacher” even shook his head and said, “You’re playing 400% better, you just needed some instruction!” What a relief, it was in there the entire time.
Two more strikes and a severely corrected game, I actually joined the ranks of my peers. It fell off in a final speed round because I couldn’t concentrate as much, but my pride wasn’t nearly as bruised as it was in the beginning.
I asked and, therefore, had received help. I improved, and quickly. If this was a simple game of bowling, for fun, what else could I apply this to? What other avenues in my life had I been using the same ball, throwing the same way I thought would work? It got me thinking, when life forces us to perform alone, and we can’t hide, how much better can we get if we ask for feedback from someone who has more experience?
So, I decided: I’ll ask. I’ll ask, and be open to the answers, and be excited for when I knock ‘em dead and hear a cheering crowd of support.
What about you? What in your life are you disappointed in the results, but probably just need some instruction? Are you open to asking for feedback, help, or insight? Have you had a similar situation where you saw your game, business, or life improve because you asked for help?
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